It’s not always easy being a bus driver. Though the job is incredibly rewarding and can come with great benefits, it also comes with a few stressors that drivers need to learn to deal with on the clock. These include road closings, loud children, and, of course, other non-bus drivers on the road. In fact, negligent drivers arguably pose the largest safety risk to the children on the bus, as they are the single factor that is beyond our responsible bus drivers’ control.
With the school year well underway, you’ll no doubt notice our bright yellow buses around the Twin Cities area, with our drivers hard at work inside and kids filing in and out. It is crucial, for your own safety as well as that of children everywhere, that you review how to drive courteously and watchfully around school buses.
Don’t fret; you don’t need to go back to driver’s ed! Northstar Bus Lines, a Maple Grove provider of student transportation services, reminds you of the basics of respectful driving below.
Attentiveness is a Learned Skill
School buses are yellow for a reason: it’s federal law, for one, but the color (called National School Bus Glossy Yellow by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) was picked to emphasize both the visibility of the vehicle and the black block letters—school bus—that are legally required to be on the side. In other words, buses look the way they do so they’re hard to miss, no matter what state you’re driving in! The color encourages drivers to be attentive to the bus’s lane, speed, and the children boarding or leaving.
However, as noticeable as school buses are, in today’s noisy and crowded city streets, we must be vigilant for countless additional hazards: pedestrians, traffic lights—not to mention drivers who conveniently forget their turn signals. It can be difficult to drive attentively when so many things require your attention.
Luckily, there are ways to train yourself to be a more watchful driver, even when the roads are chaotic:
● Learn to navigate off of audio only. If your phone has a GPS, great! When used correctly, these are valuable driving tools (just ask a school bus contractor who uses them). However, even with the recent institution of Minnesota’s Hands Free law, some drivers still spend far too long looking at their navigational devices, which takes their eyes off of the road. Even for a second, doing this can be deadly; after all, there’s a reason why we’re not allowed to text and drive!
Instead of staring at your phone and hoping there isn’t a school bus pulling out in front of you, designate a friend to watch your phone and be in charge of navigation. Otherwise, turn off the radio and train yourself on what a thousand feet looks like, as your GPS reads your directions off to you. It might take a few tries, but with enough practice, you’ll get there.
● Study up on school bus laws. Did you know, according to Minnesota law and if the speed limit is over 35 miles per hour, that a school bus driver must activate their stop sign 300 feet before they plan to let children off? In areas with slower speeds, this decreases to only 100 feet. How about the laws about right-hand turn lanes? Bus drivers are prohibited from stopping in them to let children off unless very specific criteria are met. And did you know that any local school board can prohibit a school bus from using its stop sign at a certain location if it simply issues the request in writing?
Knowing the laws that dictate school bus behavior can help you, as a class D driver, predict situations in which buses might behave differently than you’d expect, which signals you to pay attention to both the bus and other drivers. As you’re studying how to become a bus driver to learn about the laws, maybe you’ll want to become one yourself!
● Maintain an adequate stopping distance. All drivers should be doing this regardless of if they’re following school bus services or not. However, it’s easy to forget the importance of a safe following distance when we’re in a rush or when the car in front of us is driving below the speed limit. An adequate stopping distance gives you time to react if the vehicle in front of you needs to make a sudden stop (and if you want more motivation, the person who will be injured should said stop occur will not be the other driver).
In terms of attentiveness, staying far enough back, especially behind larger vehicles, allows you to see into other lanes of traffic, which enables you to be watchful for other vehicles—especially useful if group transportation services are stopping to let people off. Give school buses especially a wide berth, as they both stop frequently and take longer to stop than a passenger vehicle.
Questions? In Need of School Bus Services? Northstar Bus Lines Has You Covered
Many of our drivers undergo our paid training program, and all are well-versed in the rules of the road. Give us a call today at our Blaine terminal at 763-425-2542 if you have any questions about those rules.